Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

February 10, 2007

Michael Palin on JAM

The Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979 include a lengthy and very interesting account of his appearance as a guest on JAM. Strictly speaking it's a breach of copyright, but I thought it worthwhile offering it to the JAM fans as it is quite revealing.

Friday October 3rd 1975

At 5.15 arrived at the BBC's Paris Studio, which is not in Paris of course, but in Lower Regent Street, for recording of Just A Minute. A few people from the queue came up and asked me for an autograph, and there was my face on a display board outside. Inside the peculiarly non-festive air which the BBC (nad radio especially) has made its own. Everything from the colour of the walls and the design of the furniture to the doorman's uniform and the coffee-serving hatch seems designed to quell any lightness of spirit that you may have.
Then I met Clement Freud. He stared at me with those saucer-shaped, heavy-liffed eyes with an expression of just starightforward distaste that for a moment I thought he had just taken cyanide. The producer, John Lloyd, a ray of light in the darkness that was rapidly closing in on me, hurriedly took my arm and led me aside as if to explain something about Clement. It was that he had a "thing" about smoking, and for some inexplicable reason I had just taken one of John's cigarettes. Still this blew over.
A depressingly half-full house filed quietly in, and at 5.45 the contestants - three regulars, Freud, Kenneth Williams, the rather forbiddingly authoritative Peter Jones, myself not exactly in my element any more - and quizmaster Nicholas Parsons were introduced to friendly applause and took our places at our desks. The three regulars have been playing the game together for five years, Williams and Freud for eight, and it shows. They are smooth and polished, they know when to ad-lib, when to bend the rules a little, and when to be cross with each other. I buzzed Clement when he was at full tilt, and when asked why, I apologised and said I was testing my buzzer. That's the only time I saw him smile in my direction.
The game became easier but I never mastered the technique of microphone-hogging which they have all perfected.
Before I knew it, two shows and about an hour and a half had passed and it was all over. I signed autographs. Peter was very kind to me, and complimentary, Freud I never saw again, and Nicholas was the only one to come round to the pub and drink with us. Us being myself, Douglas Adams, (who had recommended me to his friend the producer) and John Lloyd. They seemed to be quite pleased with me and Peter, as he left, said he would see me again on the show. I gather some guests manage it (Barry Took, Katharine Whitehorn) and some don't (Barry Cryer, Willy Rushton) and at least I wasn't considered among the don'ts.

I thought that was very interesting. Amd of course Michael Palin has not yet been asked to return, despite this indication he would have been keen. Maybe a suggestion for the next series, Ms Ghelani?


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